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Blur: To The End ★★★★★



Released: 19 July 2024

Director: Toby L

At this point, Blur need no introduction as one of the pioneers of the Britpop scene in the mid-90s with classic albums like Modern Life Is Rubbish and Parklife. They have been far less prolific in the 21st century releasing just three albums, with each member pursuing their own projects in music and in other fields. 2023 proved to be a hugely successful comeback year for the group consisting of Damon Albarn, Alex James, Graham Coxon and Dave Rowntree, releasing the acclaimed number-one album The Ballad of Darren and fulfilled one of the few things that had eluded them, playing two nights at Wembley Stadium.

Toby L, director behind previous documentaries like Rip Up The Road on Foals, captured the creation of the album and the road leading up to the hugely successful Wembley shows. The end result is a raw depiction of the friendship between the band’s four members and how they have all come to terms with fame, success and ageing. Its footage cleverly intercut with moments from the band’s heyday and indeed before, especially Albarn and Coxon’s childhood friendship which kickstarted it all.

We open with Albarn inviting the other members to his studio in Devon, to record the album, almost being involved in a crash in the opening scene, moments after reflecting on age and mortality. It is rare to get such an up-close portrait of musicians of this calibre; following just the band around while they rehearse but also lark about swimming at the beach or having lunch, really gives us a sense of who they are now and where they are at this stage in their lives.

There is an undercurrent of self-deprecating humour with all four reflecting that time has caught up with them to varying degrees, recognising they are not the reckless lads they were in their 20s. This is particularly noteworthy with Alex James’ struggles with hangovers at several points. We get a sense that the reunion wasn’t simply just for show or to go through the motions that making something meaningful to them and fans is what really matters.

There is a sense of drama lurking in the background, obviously, we know the shows were a success but there is a palpable sense of tension and nervous energy surrounding initial rehearsals. Dave Rowntree suffering a knee injury right before the Wembley shows, adding to the nerves whilst building a sense of euphoria when we get to the show as it becomes a triumphant victory lap for the quartet. While the show is getting its own concert film some of the footage here showcases the band at their absolute best with a powerful rendition of The Universal and a full-throttled blast of Song 2.

Blur fans will be the ones to get the most out of this. Yet To The End is an ode to the power of music and friendship, that even after all their fallouts and differences there is still such a strong bond and when they get into a room together, they can still make magic. It is often hilarious but also has a sadness lurking just out of view as the band reflect on the state of the world. Their own ailing bodies a reminder that we all age and evolve as we get older. Focusing on the Wembley shows and creation of the new album gives it a clear sense of focus that automatically sets it apart from many music documentaries. It is ultimately a love letter to Blur and the lasting impact of their music and body of work.

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